Language shapes culture. The words we use can shape the way we see the world. Culture gives meaning to language. The predominant cultural story we live in influences the way we understand words.
It’s an interesting hand in hand relationship I’m learning about. My fascination with language is not new. I majored in English… for a while. And my new, adopted life motto is, “I was told there would be no math… 'cause the maths is hard.” (Subject is plural, verb is singular. It’s funny. Trust me.)
Earlier this year, I was encouraged to pick up the book Gospel Fluency by Jeff Vanderstelt. I devoured it. Jeff makes the point that most of us only know catch-phrases or clichés about the gospel, we speak gospel-ish rather than being fluent in the language of gospel. This was an incredibly challenging idea to me, and it didn't take long to see that he was right. When it came to having a holistic picture of what it meant to be fluent in the gospel, to be able to speak it clearly, to be able to apply it to every area of my life, I was deficient. I could say the catch phrases everyone else knows, but I didn’t think, feel, and perceive all of life through that lens.
It wasn’t that I didn’t know anything about the gospel, or that what I had received was wrong or bad, it was that the understanding of the gospel that had been passed on to me was incomplete. Like so many, the way I understood the gospel made it about a one-time event or decision, and it was all about a future hope: "One day you’ll spend eternity in heaven with Jesus.” In my faith tradition, once you got that locked down, we didn’t really mention the gospel anymore. The gospel, you see was for unbelievers. “They” needed it to help them become believers.
The truth is, “We’re all unbelievers.”
Shocking right?! It’s true, though. We all have areas where we haven’t fully surrendered or where we just flat out don’t believe that Jesus can accomplish a new work within us or that he can take care of past, present and future problems. Go ahead and think on it for a minute. You can probably name a handful off the top of your head if you’re willing to be honest. “I’m not sure Jesus is really going to take care of us financially.” “I don’t think this relationship can be reconciled.” “I’m a failure at everything I do.” “I’m probably going to lose this job.” “I’m tired of being lonely.” “I’m never going to beat this addiction.”
The list can go on. The list is a list of all the places where you need good news spoken into your life. And the gospel can do that! What Jeff helps unlock is that the gospel is good news for every area of life, from now into eternity. So it’s not about a one-time event only. It is for that, just not only for that. It’s not about a future hope only. It is for that, just not only for that.
So we started to learn a new language in our family.
We’re relearning our dominant cultural story (The story of God in history). We’re learning the vocabulary of the gospel and practicing it. We’re learning the important cultural expressions and we’re trying to start by speaking the gospel to ourselves and each other on a daily basis. It’s reintroducing us to that joy we had when we discovered our first love. It’s helping us overcome those things in our life that steal our first love.